CNC Materials – How to Choose the Best Material for Your Parts

When it comes to finding the best CNC materials for your parts, there are several choices, including, steel, brass, aluminum, plastic, and so forth. But before you can choose the perfect CNC parts material, there are several things you need to consider.   How Will Your Parts be Used?   When choosing the correct CNC materials for your next project, the first and most important consideration is the environment the parts will be working in. For example, if you are creating something that will be exposed to the elements, the best CNC parts materials for the job would be stainless steel as opposed to standard carbon steel, which would suffer from corrosion issues.   You also need to consider things like machining tolerances, stress, load-bearing capacity, and the method of fastener being used (nuts and bolts, rivets, welding, etc.). If you are crafting parts for FDA-regulated environments, the aerospace industry, or military use, these can also affect your choice of materials.   What about Weight?   Depending on the final use of your parts, you may need to focus your choice of materials carefully. For example, aluminum alloys such as 6061 offer an excellent low-density option when you need lightweight metal parts. If overall strength is not as much of an issue, but weight is, you might consider using ABS or Delrin plastics.   Heat Resistance and Strength   With regards to strength, there are several ways to measure this important specification. These include material hardness, tensile strength, and wear resistance. Determining the type or types of strength required by your CNC parts materials will help ensure you are using the best CNC materials for the parts you need.   You must also take into consideration the temperatures your parts will be exposed to. Will they be used in areas of extreme heat or cold? What if they are to be used in an environment where the temperature fluctuates? In a fluctuating environment, your choice of materials must include those that can handle expansion and contraction within the required tolerances. Even the slightest change in temperature can cause certain materials to expand or contract significantly.   What about Dimensional Tolerance?   Knowing the dimensional tolerance for your parts also plays a large role in your decision. Certain materials offer the ability to be machined within closer tolerances than others. While there are standard tolerances used by many CNC machining facilities, if you need tighter tolerances and fail to specify them when choosing your materials, you could easily end up with parts that don't fit, causing your final product to fail.   Cost of Materials   While many prefer to determine the best materials without factoring in cost, it should be an important part of your final decision. In many instances, the ability of a particular material to be machined and its overall cost play a vital role in your final choice. The more of any CNC parts materials you use for your project, the less they are likely to cost because of scale and quantity discounts. At the same time, if your project requires the use of specialty materials or materials like titanium, you can expect the final cost of your parts to be higher.   For more information and help choosing the right materials for your next project, contact Additive Manufacturing and let us help. You can reach us online or at (877) 238-7907.